Rabbits make amazing home companions. They are clean, quiet, good with kids, and fairly easy to manage. They are, however, prone to injuries such as hip dislocation due to the nature of their skeletons.
Rabbit hip dislocation (luxation) can happen because of developmental abnormalities, excessive movement, or traumatic injury causing the ball of the hip joint to pop out of the socket. One obvious sign of luxation is limping. It may or may not need surgery to treat.
In this article, we’ve compiled the science-based, veterinary-approved information you need to know about rabbits’ hip dislocation. We’ll discuss the following:
- What is rabbit hip dislocation (luxation)?
- What causes hip luxation in pet rabbits?
- How do you know if your rabbit has dislocated its hip?
- Treating rabbit hip dislocation
What is rabbit hip dislocation or luxation?
Rabbit hip dislocation, or luxation, is the term used to describe when the ball of the hip joint pops out of the socket rather than resting comfortably in its correct position.
Trauma, such as jumping and taking a fall, or any forceful trauma to the hip, such as being trampled on, dashing into something, fighting, kicking out when being carried up, etc., frequently results in luxation. The femoral head luxating (dislocating) from its position on the pelvis (the acetabulum), causes coxofemoral luxation.
What causes hip dislocation in pet rabbits?
A hip dislocation is commonly caused by traumatic injury. However, the force isn’t always external: it can come from the rabbit itself. Other rabbits are prone to dislocation because of an underlying developmental condition.
Trauma to the hind limbs
Rabbit fights – Trauma to the hind limbs may occur when rabbits fight. Play fighting between bunnies is normal and healthy, but when your bunnies start aggressively fighting, it can cause serious injuries.
Cat/dog attacks – Due to bunnies’ timid and relaxed nature, they make excellent prey for house pets such as cats and dogs. Although some mixed-species friendships can develop, it’s a good idea to limit interactions and not leave them unattended.
Sudden reactions – The rabbit may jerk or move suddenly as a reflex response to being frightened. The force of the kick or twisting can not only dislocate the hip, but also fracture vertebrae in the back or damage the area around the fibula and tibia.
Improper handling – It’s crucial to restrain rabbits properly so that they feel secure and don’t try to jump free. Otherwise, the force of their kicks could cause a dislocation or fracture.
Some developmental abnormalities in young kits up to a few months old are referred to as splay leg. The affected rabbit cannot hold the affected limb, or limbs, in the typical posture beneath the body, or flex them.
Because the illness is inherited, affected rabbits must never be used in breeding. It’s also important to make sure the rabbit doesn’t gain too much weight, because it will increase strain on their limbs and increase their likelihood of injury.
Related: How to Take Care of a Rabbit
How do you know if your rabbit has hip luxation?
Identifying when your bunny has a hip dislocation due to trauma is quite easy. The signs are often immediate, and they also tend to be easy to spot, such as limping or being unable to move.
For congenital abnormalities among rabbits that cause luxation, they may become more apparent as your bunny develops and tend to be harder to notice.
Symptoms of problems of the hip joints
No two rabbits are the same, so watch out for any change in behavior that could indicate a problem. Some of the more typical symptoms and indicators are listed below.
- peculiar or abnormal posture, such as the inability to hop
- holding up the affected leg at an angle so as not to apply pressure on it
- weakness of the hind limbs
- visible injury to the back or legs
- signs of pain or distress
Diagnosis at the veterinary clinic
If you notice your bunny displaying any of the above signs, consider seeing a veterinary surgeon for an official diagnosis. This could be at a private practice, or an emergency clinic if the problem occurs out of hours.
In addition to assessing any limb damage with radiographs, your veterinarian will perform a full examination to evaluate the spinal reflexes to search for nerve anomalies. Radiography will show the state of your rabbit’s hips, and whether the bone is fractured or has detached from its socket.
The most accurate images of limbs can be obtained using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), but this is expensive and would usually require referral to a larger hospital.
Treating rabbit hip dislocation
If your bunny has sustained a traumatic injury resulting in joint dislocations, hospitalization for the stabilization of the joint and any broken bones present will probably be necessary. Your pet will be under observation for a few days.
There are two types of treatment for replacing a dislocated hip or fractures: open reduction or closed reduction.
- In open reduction, a veterinary surgeon will perform surgery to reposition your bunny’s dislocated bone back in its proper alignment.
- In closed reduction, the broken bones will be physically moved back into place without surgery.
Even if there is no fracture and closed reduction treatment is successful, many cases of luxation may require surgery to provide stabilization for the hip joint.
Sometimes the joint continues to dislocate, and the rabbit may struggle to heal. This can leave it in continuous pain with a poor prognosis. Euthanasia may be indicated if the vet is unable to relieve the discomfort.
Rabbits make wonderful pets, but they can be fragile, and hip luxation is a serious condition.
Ensuring the safety of your pet is key to giving them a happy and fulfilling life. Protect them from injury as far as possible, and contact your vet promptly if you notice any abnormalities.